Physics 101
Concepts in Physics

Course Objectives:

  1. To give freshman students a broad qualitative overview of key concepts in physics. The role of mathematics in physics will be emphasized and "key" equations will be discussed.
  2. To provide order of magnitude estimates of length, time and energy scales characterizing various physical processes.
  3. To put the development of physics in its proper social and historical context.
  4. To outline career opportunities in physics. Discussed will be traditional areas of physics employment along with a number of "non-traditional" employment opportunities for students with physics backgrounds.

Course Organization:


Fridays, 4:10 – 5:00 p.m. in Room 120 of Physics-Astronomy (PA).


Professor M. Abolins, 256 PA, Secretary phone: 3-5180. E-mail:


All materiel pertaining to the course will reside on the web at: Efforts have been made to use extensive links to web resources including books on reserve at the PA Library.

Student Evaluation:

There will be no exams in the course. Student performance will be evaluated on the basis of an essay (1300 – 1500 words, typed) addressing one of the following topics:

  1. The life and key contributions of your favorite physicist
  2. An application of physics to technology.

Each report must introduce and discuss the importance of at least one physics equation. Prior to starting work on an essay it is important that students clear the topic with the instructor who will try to insure that there is no duplication. Students will make 15 minute presentations of their topics to the class at a series of "student workshops" that will be held during the weeks before Thanksgiving.
Student performance in the class will be evaluated on the following bases:

  • 40% for the written essay
  • 30% for the oral presentation
  • 30% for attendance and participation during weekly lectures and student presentations. During the weekly lectures three students will be chosen at random and asked to make brief comments about a concept in physics. The goal is to get students to articulate their thoughts in a coherent manner and to present reasoned arguments.